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Cyberbullying: Bullying for the Dot Com Generation

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Phoebe Prince was once a vibrant 15 year old, before she moved to the west Massachusetts town of South Hadley in 2009. After continuously receiving crude messages and emails online she was found dead in her home on January 14, 2010. (De nies, Donaldson, Netter 2010) Phoebe Prince is just one of many victims of cyber bullying; in a survey conducted in 2009 forty three percent of the demographic surveyed, ages fourteen to twenty-four, reported they had been victims of cyber bullying. (Chait)

Cyber bullying has become a growing problem for society and most agree that it needs to be addressed in a much grander spectrum that it is currently. With the introduction of personal computers and cell phones, the ability for bullies to readily have access to the internet, email and social networking sites has greatly increased, which in turn increases the bullies' ability to consistently prey on their victims. What was once confined to the playground, school bus or neighborhood, has increased as fast as the programs that run today's computers and cellphones. While this form of abuse is relatively new, it is appearing in headlines more and more frequently. It is important for society to recognize cyber bullying as a serious offense because of the significant amounts of children and adolescents that are suffering its negative effects.

The purpose of this paper is to define cyber bullying, to discover the impact it is having on its victims, their families and on communities worldwide, how to recognize the signs of cyber bullying and provide suggested methods to prevent others from suffering its sometimes deadly effects.


"Cyber bullying is the repeated use of technology to harass, humiliate or threaten." (Holladay, 2011) The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary claims the term cyber bullying was first used in the year 2000. (Merriam-Webster, 2011) Cyber Bullying has become a large problem, in not only the United States, but worldwide. The act of cyber bullying often involves communication by email, text messages on cell phones and messages sent or posted on social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter. One study has shown that there is a large demographic of people falling victim to cyber bullying, some cases starting in elementary school grades and going all the way through adult college students. (Holladay) There are many degrees of cyber bullying. At one end of the scale are things such as name calling or teasing. And on the other end the bullying is more serious, and even criminal, such as insisting someone should end his/her life, which has actually led to more than one case of suicide. One of the most recent cases is that of the Rutgers University Student, Tyler Clementi; Clementi committed suicide after his roommate secretly videotaped him and his partner in his dorm room and posted the video on a live internet feed for all to see. (Friedman, 2010)

There is a vast spectrum of negative impacts that cyber bullying has on it victims. These impacts frequently affect the families and friends of the victims as well. While cyber bullying can affect people of all ages, it affects teenagers most. "Cyber bullying is a huge deal to the youth experiencing it. They can often feel even more alone than if the bullying was occurring in person. At least with non-cyber bullying, someone may hear something or see something and possibly help. Cyber bullying can be terrifying because it is such an isolated experience for the victim." (Chait) Teenagers who are being victimized by cyber bullying often suffer from a wide array of negative emotions including, but not limited to, anger, depression and embarrassment. They also often experience fear for their personal safety and fear for their lives. (Chait)

There are several signs that parents and other caretakers should look for if they suspect their child may be showing symptoms or effects of cyber bullying. The first sign parents can watch for are signs of distress during or after internet or cell phone use. The next sign to be alert for is withdrawing from friends, school, activities and group gatherings. Other signs to look for would be things such as a decline in grades, behavioral problems, changes in mood, appetite and sleep patterns. (New)

There are multiple steps that can be taken to prevent cyber bullying. How to handle cyber bullying depends on the role of the adult in the child's life. In a parent to child relationship, these are a few suggestions for how to prevent the onset of cyber bullying and intervene if cyber bullying has already begun.

Make an agreement with your children to keep all internet capable devices out of children's bedrooms. Talk regularly with your child about online activities that he or she is involved in. Talk specifically about cyber bullying and encourage your child to tell you immediately if he or she is the victim of cyber bullying, cyber stalking, or other illegal or troublesome online behavior. Explain that you will not take away their technology if they confide in you about a problem they are having. Encourage your child to tell you if he or she is aware of others who may be the victims of cyber bullying. Explain that cyber bullying is harmful and unacceptable behavior. Outline your expectations for responsible online behavior and make it clear that there will be consequences for inappropriate behavior. Explain that treating others well online may also protect them from being harassed or cyber bullied. Although adults must respect the privacy of children and youth, concerns for your child's safety may sometimes override these privacy concerns. Tell your child that as a responsible parent you may review his or her online communications if you think there is reason for concern. Consider installing parental control filtering software and/or monitoring programs, but do not rely solely on these tools. (Health Resources and Services Administration)

Society does not place all of the responsibility for prevention and termination of cyber bullying into the hands of the parent or parents. School systems, principals and teachers are also being held accountable. There are alternative suggestions for those in the school systems to follow to aid in preventing and stopping cyber bullying.

Educate your students, teachers, and other staff members about cyber bullying, its dangers, and what to do if someone is cyber bullied.



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